A/N: yes, dear readers, this is the end. And no, I'm not writing a third part, this remains a duology. I'd like to thank everyone for having supported me throughout Aztec and this fic, your kind words meant a lot.
As white as a sheet, Artemis got to his feet (he had to clutch at the table because his knees were feeling weak all of a sudden) and gabbled to Juliet: "Get Mother! If she's asleep already, wake her up! Hurry!"
"Hold your horses, Artemis, babies aren't born in a minute," Holly said, trying to sound as composed as possible under given circumstances. Her face was still pale but no longer contorted in pain – apparently her first contraction had passed. "I'll be happy if I manage to pop out this little one before sunrise."
"Exactly as Holly says," Juliet commented. "So no need to hurry." Seeing Artemis's blue eyes flash with fury, she added hastily: "Okay, okay, I'm going and getting your mother."
"All right, Holly?" Artemis turned to his wife. "Shall I carry you upstairs?"
She shook her head with a smile. "I can walk, but you look like someone who's about to faint on the spot. I doubt you could carry me in your current state, even if you wanted to… Butler, make sure that Artemis doesn't collapse while Julius helps me walk upstairs."
"But… I don't need Butler's help! I'm not about to collapse!" Artemis protested, even though his knees were still weak. He hadn't expected this baby to be born so early, and especially not on Christmas Eve. He had several times imagined himself at Holly's side when she was giving birth, and every time he imagined he'd be acting brave and giving her all the support she needed; yet now that it was real, he didn't feel any of the bravery the imaginary Artemis had.
o o o O O O o o o
In a few minutes they were up in their room, surrounded by their friends and relatives. Angeline was making a fuss as expected, making both Mulches roll their eyes on a regular basis.
Shortly before midnight Angeline sent out her husband, Butler, Julius and the Diggumses, even though Holly wouldn't have minded having them around a bit longer to entertain her between two contractions.
The dwarves left the room with a piercing stare directed at the Lady of Fowl Manor and muttering 'killjoy'. Truth was that both Mulches would have been glad to have a chance to witness the labour almost to its end to have a clear idea what to expect when Opal was giving birth, but they had been denied the chance.
Angeline was just about to usher Patrick out too, when Holly called out to the boy.
"Patrick," she panted, beads of sweat coursing down the sides of her face.
"Tell me… what… what was it like to drink the half-fairy version of the MMM?"
"Why are you asking, Mum?"
A concerned expression spread on Holly's sweat-soaked face. "Did it hurt?"
Patrick bit into his lower lip.
"I have to know," his mother insisted. "If this baby is born and healthy, she will need to drink that serum… Not immediately, of course, but within a year. We couldn't… hide her for years before we make her drink it. I have to know, Patrick. What was it like?"
The boy knelt down by the bed and took Holly's hand. "Don't worry, Mum, it only stung a bit, but it passed quickly. Yes, surely it will make a baby cry, but more with shock than with pain. And it doesn't last long, only a few seconds. It's not worse than a bad stomach ache, I promise. And babies always cry because of stomach aches…"
A feeble smile appeared on Holly's face. "If only I could hear her cry for the first time…"
"You will," Artemis said gently. "Just a little more to go."
"A little? You've got to be kidding." She shook her head. "I'm only at the beginning of this… Ouch!"
Patrick sidled out of the room, smirking as his mother screamed at his father that she'd cook him with a blast from her Neutrino if he ever touched her again.
"Oh, really?" Artemis cocked an eyebrow at his wife once the contraction was over. "I seem to recall you screaming to me to touch you for quite a few times…"
Holly sent him a glance that suggested she'd castrate him on the spot if he didn't shut up.
"Really, Arty," Juliet spoke up, placing a cool, wet towel on Holly's forehead, "if you ever had to give something up again, what would you give up? Sex or your genius?"
Artemis presented her with a vampire smile. "Sex, of course."
o o o O O O o o o
"How are things going?" enquired Root as Patrick exited his parents' room.
"Mum's just threatened Dad she'd kill him if he ever got her pregnant again," Patrick replied with a grin. "So I'd say everything's going fine."
"Yeah, she's a fiery little girl that Holly." Mulch1 nodded. "Just like my Opal…"
"Like our Opal," Mulch2 corrected him.
"Exactly," Mulch1 agreed. "And like your girlfriend, Julius…"
"Annie… I mean, Wing Commander Vinyáya isn't my girlfriend, Convict!" Root snapped.
"Oh yeah? And what is she then? Just a colleague whom you send bouquets and love poems three times a week?" Mulch1 said with an innocent expression.
"…Do I know?" Mulch2 finished Root's sentence. "From Foaly. A real gossip, that centaur! If it weren't for him, you might have kept your little romance with Miss Vinyáya a secret, but thanks to him now half of Haven knows, and definitely all of the LEP know."
Root's hands clenched into fists. "I'm going to kill that pony!"
"Don't, Uncle Julius," Patrick said with a smirk. "Life would be too boring without him. And I would have no one to gloat about my technical achievements to… I love seeing his face turn green with envy, you know…"
Artemis Senior shook his head with an indulgent smile. "Artemis couldn't ever deny you're his son."
"Well, he has denied it a few times already when pretending to be my brother." The boy grinned at his grandfather. "But sometimes I so felt like telling people that I was his son… especially that dunderhead Malcolm at the wedding party. Imagine his face when finding out that Artemis Fowl, the most annoying swot in their class was a father at fourteen…"
o o o O O O o o o
Hours passed, and the males waiting outside were getting more and more sleepy and bored, not to mention, nervous. They had no idea how things were going inside the room, as Artemis had had baffle boards installed several months ago and no noise whatsoever came through the closed door.
"Why isn't anyone coming out, just to tell us how things are proceeding?" Butler huffed.
"You know, old friend, you look just as agitated as you were when Artemis was born," the lord of Fowl Manor said with a smile. "I recall you pacing the corridor at Sisters of Mercy Hospital, muttering about inept obstetricians and lazy nurses…"
Butler shrugged with an apologetic glance. "That kid meant a lot to me, even before he was born… I love him as a little brother or a son, Mr Fowl."
"I know that, Butler." Artemis the First patted the manservant on the shoulder. "Arty is lucky to have two fathers, isn't he?"
"And so will be my child," Mulch2 chimed in.
"Exactly, mate." Mulch1 grinned.
"Really, have you been thinking of names yet?" asked Patrick.
"Well, of course." Mulch1 grinned. "Juliet for a girl and Julius for a boy."
"WHAT?" Root gasped.
"No need to thank, Julius." Mulch2 waved theatrically.
"I wasn't about to thank…" Root snapped, but he couldn't finish his sentence because in the next instant the door whooshed open to reveal a beaming Artemis, holding a tiny bundle in his arms.
"Everyone, let me introduce you Diana Angeline Fiona Fowl," he said proudly.
"Awwwwww…" said everyone around, Julius included, as they peered into the bundle.
The baby had pale skin and black hair like her father's, but her ears were a little more pointed than the average human's. Other than that, she could have passed as a human. No doubt the Fowls would be able to disguise her as a 'normal' little girl by making her wear a bonnet before she was old enough to drink the MMM.
"She's adorable," Patrick said, lovingly examining his sister. "How's Mum?"
"She's fine, just fallen asleep," Artemis replied.
"May I hold her a bit? Just a little bit?" Butler asked with a hopeful expression.
"All right, but only if you quickly give her back to me." The young father grinned, and gently passed the baby to his one-time bodyguard.
"I like your name of choice," Fowl Senior said, turning to his son.
"Me too." Artemis smiled. "Holly said she didn't want to call any child of ours Artemis… and she got what she wanted… And I got what I wanted too…" He glanced at the baby nestled in the crook of Butler's arm. "Her name is almost Artemis, after all… just the Roman version."
o o o O O O o o o
Shortly after sunrise, Artemis was standing in the entrance hall, holding his newborn daughter in his arms. She was wide awake, her huge, blue eyes scanning her father's face and the surroundings. And there was so much to see! First of all, that beautifully decorated tree to the left, then those funnily swirling white specks outside…
"Yes, dear, it's snowing," Artemis said gently, stepping to the nearest window. "Beautiful, isn't it? Just as beautiful as you are…" He bent down and kissed the baby's forehead. "You know, for a short time I thought that getting my genius back was the most wonderful Christmas present I could have received… But now I know I was wrong: it's you, Diana. You're my favourite Christmas present ever. I see you're absolutely fascinated with the snow… Just wait a few years, and we'll be having huge snowball fights outside… We'll have so much fun together… Daddy will teach you how to hack into well protected computer systems, for example…"
The baby yawned and someone cleared their throat.
Artemis turned away from the window to see Holly standing nearby, wearing a warm dressing gown. "You're already spoiling that child, Artemis!" she said in a scolding voice.
"Holly… what are you doing up?" he breathed. "You should be sleeping, resting! You've just had a baby, for heaven's sake!"
"And I'm a fairy, remember?" She smiled at him. "My magic healed me in no time. I awoke ten minutes ago to see that neither was my husband sleeping next to me nor was my daughter lying in her crib and I was wondering where you two had gone… And I find you in the freezing entrance hall, promising our daughter to teach her how to break the law. I should be mad at you, Artemis Fowl!"
He grinned at her. "But you're not, are you?"
She rolled her eyes. "No. I can't find it in my heart to be angry with my husband at Christmas, especially not when he's holding his favourite Christmas present in his arms…"
"It's not nice to eavesdrop, you know," he said with a would-be reproachful stare.
"I didn't intend to eavesdrop…" She shrugged and stepped to him. "Give her here a bit. I haven't even held her yet."
"All right, but just a little bit, then I want her back," Artemis said, slipping the youngest Fowl into Holly's arms.
"She looks so much like you," the fairy muttered, smiling proudly at her daughter. "I wonder if she's inherited my magic…"
"Time will tell," Artemis replied, putting his arm around his wife's shoulder. "Speaking of time… I think I was wrong."
"What do you mean?" She looked up at him.
"Remember the morning of our engagement?"
She nodded with a confused expression.
Artemis kissed her gently on the cheek. "That day I said 'you can't go back and change the past'. Well… apparently, you can go back, and change the future."
A/N: the show's over, people. Be sure to leave a final review!
And now, here's a little teaser from my upcoming Bartimaeus fanfic, in case some of you are interested :)
o o o O O O o o o
She murmured a short incantation, and three lightning bolts tore at my body at once. And not only for a second, but… I didn't even know how long. Too long, that's for sure. Some time later I realised I was lying on the floor within the pentacle, the nexus still vividly vibrating around me. My gargoyle-body was steaming at certain places.
"That was horrible, wasn't it?" a shrill voice asked.
I lifted my head a bit – though it felt extremely heavy all of a sudden – and glanced at my mistress.
"Will you talk now, Barty dear?"
"It's Bartimaeus, you tramp," I hissed from the floor. I shouldn't have. The next instant another pair of lightning bolts ran through me. I won't describe my reaction to them, for two reasons – one: detailed description of torture would turn my story M-rated and most of you wouldn't be able to read it; two: it's beneath my dignity to admit that I was screaming like an imp being ripped apart by an Uttuku, or a Sprite being tramped upon by a Horla, or… Well, you get the idea.
After a while, I opened my eyes and saw Jane Farrar staring down at me with a grim expression. "Just for your information, Barty," she said coldly, "one or two more hits like that will kill you. It's time to decide whether you want to be sentimentally loyal to John – though I really don't understand why you would – or you talk and I promise your torture will end. Choose Bartimaeus: life or death? Me or John?"
"So?" The Tramp asked demandingly.
"So what?" I pretended to be politely confused but hadn't really managed. I was simply too tired and battered to act natural. Don't frown like that! Why, had you, in my place, been fresh and quick-minded?
"I want a name!" she hissed.
"Zacharias," I said the first name that came to my mind.
The nexus hit me, but this time it wasn't controlled by my mistress, only its basic function had been activated. The hit had been short and mild compared to the latest ones. I was still alive.
My mistress glowered down on me.
"Hey…" I muttered, barely feeling strong enough to talk, "you wanted a name. I told you a name… You didn't specify what kind of a name you wanted…"
"I want John's birth name!" The Tramp snapped. She looked really agitated for some reason. "And you'd better tell me his real birth name, or I'll send five bolts at you at once and that will kill you, demon!"
"You're mad, woman," I murmured.
"You are mad if you're trying to defend him," she said sharply. "Why are you doing it, Bartimaeus? What has he done for you? He's just like any of us, just as evil and greedy! He isn't any different!"
No matter how hard it was, I had to admit that she was right. Once I had known a stuck-up, proud, but overall good-hearted and courageous little boy. That little boy had turned into an arrogant, selfish git who'd sell his own mother for some more power (especially after his own mother had sold him). All in all, the kid was a nasty, cold-hearted idiot who didn't deserve my sympathy and definitely didn't deserve my self-sacrifice. The question ran through my mind: to be or not to be? And I decided to be.
I gave the Tramp a patronising stare. "It's Nathaniel. Happy now?"